Team Lakay spearheads PH’s historic night at MOA

Kevin Belingon, Eduard Folayang, and Joshua Pacio all dominated their respective opponents to make Team Lakay the forefront of a historic performance by the Philippines during ONE: REIGN OF KINGS at the Mall of Asia Arena last July 27, 2018

Along with Rene Catalan, who also did his own version of dominating an opponent, the Pinoy quadruplet made the night a showcase of the excellence Philippine fighters that made the country attain records with historic proportions.

With Belingon’s victory, the Philippines became the nation that has the most number of champions in the history of ONE championship, the most number current championships held, and extended its lead on the most number of currents champions category.

The Philippines took over solo lead in the most number of champions, breaking a tie with Japan and Brazil, who were left at second place with four a piece.

The Philippines, likewise, became the country with the most number of championships currently possessed, leaving Myanmar and Australia at two apiece.

The country also extended its lead in the most number of current ONE champions, as all other countries have just one. Myanmar’s Aung La N’Sang concurrently holding the Middleweight and Cruiserweight titles while Australia’s Martin Nguyen is the possessor of both the Lightweight and Featherweight titles.

On an individual level, Folayang earned his 20th career victory while the youthful Pacio invented a new submission move and displayed it for the first time in front of ONE Championship audience.

In addition, Folayang, Pacio and Catalan became the first fighter to tarnish their respective opponent’s fight career record by handing them their first loss while Belingon prevented his opponent from making a historic feat himself.

ONE Championship photo.

Belingon used patience in the first round to size up Nguyen in the night’s main event before firing his vaunted strikes in the next three that kept Nguyen at bay to build a comfortable lead in the scorecards.

Belingon simply played it smart in the fifth by launching another set of furious attacks before coasting along to avoid Nguyen’s dangerous overhand right to earn the nod of all three judges for the unanimous decision.

He took initial possession of the Interim Bantamweight World Championship to become the fifth Pinoy to ever hold a belt and the third currently holding a title.

Geje Eustaquio, the Flyweight Champion, and Brandon Vera, the Heavyweight titleholder, account for the other two current belt holders.

Folayang, who previously won the Flyweight title, and Honorio Banario, who was the first Featherweight Champ way back in 2013 when ONE Championship was still known as ONE FC, completes the list of those who, at one point of their career, were ONE Champions.

The victory of “The Silencer” also prevented Nguyen from becoming the first ever fighter in ONE history to become a three division title holder, as well as the first to hold three titles simultaneously.

Nguyen was the first to hold two titles concurrently, achieving the second at the expense of Folayang in 2017, before Aung La N’Sang duplicated the feat early this year.

ONE Championship photo.

On the other hand, Folayang displayed footwork wizardry, using multiple kicks to the leg to keep Aziz Pahrudinov at bay while perfectly defending against any grappling attempts as the Russian tried to put the game to the mat.

These sequences, repeated for all three rounds, earned Folayang the judges nod for a unanimous decision win.

He gave Pahrudinov, an extremely high-level grappler and explosive striker who has built a reputation as a bonafide finisher, featuring close to a 95% finishing rate in competition whether by submission or by knockout, his first loss in 22 bouts.

The victory is the 20th career victory of the “Landslide”. He now reposition himself as among the top contenders for the flyweight crown.

ONE Championship photo.

Lastly, Pacio was the only one among the Filipinos who finished his opponent early by making him tap out in the first round.

Pacio also showed the leaps and bounds of his improved ground game.

In a match expected to be a stand-up battle given Pacio’s wushu prowess and opponent Thai hero Pongsiri Mitsatit’s renowned Muay Thai background, the fighters did not stay on the feet for very long as the Team Lakay standout caught Mitsatit’s leg kick, took him down and took the side control, barely a minute into the first round.

From there, Pacio quickly transitioned to full mount and rained a barrage of punches and elbows to “The Smiling Assasin”. As Mitsatit struggles to escape, “The Passion” took his back for the rear-naked choke.

Instead of going for the choke however, he grabbed one of Mitsatit’s arms and twisted it around his back to give the Thai no other options but to tap.

The creative submission move, named “The Passion Lock” by Pacio himself, was never executed before in ONE Championship history, according the promotion’s website.

The move, which will be forever associated with Pacio as it is named in reference to his monicker, ended the match at the 3:37 mark of round one.

This was Mitsatit’s first career loss. He previously racked nine straight wins going into this bout.

ONE Championship photo.

Meanwhile, Catalan set the table up for the hosts as he opened the show by delivering one of the best performances of his mixed martial arts career.

He utilized his world-class striking arsenal to earn a unanimous decision victory over previously undefeated Indonesian Stefer Rahardian.

“D’ Challenger” displayed his offensive arsenal by starting with a series of blistering kicks to leg of “The Lion”, then followed it up with lightning quick strikes.

He then foiled every attempt of Rahardian to put the match on the mat, including a masterful escape in the second round that got him back to his feet after a successful take down.

Catalan continued his fury in the third despite being seemingly ahead in the scorecards. His kicks and left hands kept finding their target to ensure that Rahadian’s spotless career record be dented.

The unanimous decision victory had the Indonesian star his first loss in nine matches.

The victory also ups Catalan’s winning streak to five after starting his MMA career with a no contest sandwiched by two losses.

By: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS

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